“Votes for Life” were promised twice in manifestos by the Conservative Party and yet still here we are, many of us, still screaming out but voiceless.
Let’s trust the promise of “introducing” it before 2022 means quick implementation rather than the mere token initiation of a tedious drawn-out process. Still, it is promised at last.
Nevertheless, there still seems to me there is a glaring error with the proposed form.
The Government does not support the creation of parliamentary constituencies for overseas electors, stating it is the “right principle that overseas electors continue to have some form of connection to the area of the country where they were last resident.”
What an anachronism! Yes, the majority of us maintain ties with the UK. But with our former constituency in the area we last happened to live in?
We are no longer living in the last century! There may well be many amongst us who do have their heart and interests fixed firmly in their last UK constituency, but these days, it is more usual for people to move several times in their lives. Strong ties may well be anywhere other than the constituency they last lived in in the UK.
If, by example, your electoral area changed from Yorkshire to Devon, you gained representation in Devon. Now you have dared to cross a national border to your new home, you remain represented by an MP whose main point of focus is Yorkshire – where’s the sense in that?
When I return to the UK, I spend most time in Essex or Kent with family. I am fully engaged with UK politics and its effects on myself and my family. Yet my MP hails from a constituency in Derbyshire – the place I just happened to land up in through work commitments.
The Government’s lack of logic is a nonsense. Why should I be treated any differently if I choose to move to France than if I had chosen to move to another British area? Am I not as equally entitled as any other UK elector to representation by an MP who is relevant? Overseas constituencies must be established.
This is especially vital now that more Brits are choosing to live or work overseas. MoveHub reported in 2017 that there had been an upsurge in moving enquiries made by 18 to 35-year-old young professionals of around 60%, adding: “The will to live abroad and experience different cultures is ever growing among young people”. The UK needs to keep the younger generations actively engaged and this will not be by acting so parochially.
Four European countries already have representation for external voters in place – Croatia, France, Italy and Portugal – as well as many other non-European countries.
Is it not time the UK Government grasped the nettle of creating Overseas Constituencies as well? And what better time than now, whilst they are reforming the Votes for Life rule?
Christina Hendy-Jones, LibDems in France Data Officer
(Both Votes for Life and Overseas Constituencies are part of 2018 LibDems in France campaigns – www.libdemsinfrance.org)